Thank God it’s a new year! I was beginning to get exhausted from all the Big Ideas that fell from the sky or were being discovered by the mainstream (at last) in 2006. It’s a hard act to follow.
It was Youtube, Skype and the addictive Wikipedia (everyone from secretaries to Alexander Downer is a fan) rather than the blogosphere that took the web into another realm in 2006. Al Gore and the Stern Report sealed the deal after two decades of debate about whether the Earth’s getting warmer. And celebrity reached a tipping point no longer the exclusive domain of the talented, it has taken on a lottery-like egalitarianism that consumes our public space. What’s next on the agenda?
With Nancy Pelosi setting new tones in Washington, regime change on the way in the UK and France, and a Labor leader in Australia who seems to have BBQ-stopping capacity (without the unstable downside of Latham), we are in with a fighting shot of matching 2006 for excitement.
Then again, in this era, it’s not usually governments that lead or are best placed to institute change. Here are a few examples of what 2007 has in store for us.
First out of the blocks is the cut-price laptop set to revolutionise the Developing World. Priced at just $US100 a pop, Nicholas Negroponte’s social enterprise has the backing of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is set to match the mobile phone revolution already sweeping Africa. Countries signed up to the first-round rollout of the laptops include Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nigeria, Libya, Pakistan and Thailand. Delivering prosperity that countless governments, aid organisations and the weather have failed to deliver if it actually gets off the ground, this laptop will usher in the next step towards true and democratic globalisation.
Not far behind will be the padded debates of global institutions who will spend 2007 realising they can avoid reform no longer. From the grossly unjust and irrelevant UN Security Council to the EU’s Constitution, 2007 offers a way out of sclerosis if the hands on the tiller are bold enough to act radically and selflessly. Don’t expect India, Brazil, Japan, Germany and South Africa to be handed higher status on the Security Council on a platter but don’t expect them to be quiet about another snub either. For 50 years, democratic Germany has used the EU to restore it’s international reputation and, with it’s hands back in the cookie jar of the EU Presidency this year, it will implement a ‘one more push’ strategy to resurrect the EU Constitution so decisively rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. The Germans aren’t sure how they’ll manage this and neither is anyone else.
Thanks to Fiona Katauskas
Closer to home, the decaying Australian Constitution will be held up to scrutiny. After four wasted years of Labor hegemony in the States, Kevin Rudd is finally forcing the Premiers to talk to each other and with him and for good reason. The Constitution is becoming obsolete and the Charter of Budget Honesty is such an excellent election-rigging tool for the incumbent government that only multilateral State reform agreements can provide Rudd with a guaranteed war chest for this year’s Federal election.
2007 will also be the year of personal carbon trading. Instead of waiting around for creaking institutions to deliver the next steps on climate change, more and more of us will be taking action at an individual level (as with the current EU emissions trading scheme). There will be no critical mass for this in 2007, but it will cease to be just an idea and begin to be a series of pilot projects in the Northern Hemisphere. The upside will be an eventual mass politicisation around climate change as it is directly linked to every hip pocket; the downside is the rich will keep flying off for mini-breaks every month having snapped up everyone else’s carbon credits.
Perhaps the other great hope for 2007 is the feminisation of global leadership. In a year that marks the centenary of the first women in parliament (in Finland), SÃ©golÃ¨ne Royal, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Wu Yi, Sonia Gandhi and Angela Merkel will be breaking barriers held up for centuries against women around the world.
The least well-known woman in that power-list, Wu Yi , is China’s leading Vice Premier and will be playing a central role at the Communist Party’s November congress its first in five years. In that time China has grown to be the world’s third largest economy, holds the greatest amount of foreign exchange reserves of any country, will almost certainly be the largest exporter by the time the congress curtains close, and is the undisputed second military power on the planet. Wu Yi is the ‘goddess of transparency’ within this machine, according to Time magazine, and her influence, along with China’s, is set to grow.
If that’s all too heavy, there will also be plenty of celebrity respite. The 10th anniversary of our discovery of public grief is rolling in. Just as Prince William’s girlfriend, plain Kate Middleton, starts to assume the mantle left by Diana, the Princess of Wales will be celebrated endlessly across the globe this year. Culminating in new ranges of cheap tea towels and a massive concert in London to mark what would have been her 46th birthday, this frenzy is typified by the $100 concert tickets selling out in 20 seconds in December.
Whatever your fancy, 2007 won’t be boring or slow.
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